By Robert Hadley
Businesses ready to take advantage of the immense power of email marketing are in luck — a plethora of vendors offering Web-based services are available.
Since the term “email marketing” is so broad, dividing your options into categories will help you whittle the list down to a manageable few. Some vendors are geared toward online event management and promotion, while others are more concerned with e-newsletter production and subscriptions. Some services stake out the middle ground, offering a suite of publishing, event promotion and survey tools.
All of the vendors reviewed here offer the ability to upload and manage distribution lists, cross-promote campaigns across social media platforms, and have a template gallery to help make your emails visually appealing.
Most let you create a form to capture contacts on your Website. Each of the services also offer compliance with the Can-Spam Act of 2003, which basically means your recipients can opt in or out of your campaigns.
Pricing ranges from free to a remarkable $12,000 per month for a plan that lets you send email to 3.1 million recipients.
Following are reviews of five of the most capable email marketing vendors currently available.
In terms of basic services, *Constant Contact has it all: list management, email and newsletter creation, surveys and polls, plus the ability to create event websites and accept payments via PayPal.
A 60-day free trial makes Constant Contact an appealing option for organizations that want to use a range of email marketing strategies but don’t want to limit themselves to just one function (say, event management).
To help users mine the service’s value, Constant Contact provides technical support, how-to videos and instructional newsletters. Pricing starts at $15 per month for basic service, and increases based on whether you add the survey or event modules, as well as on the size of your database.
Boasting a tagline as simple as “easy email newsletters,” Mail Chimp delivers a robust e-publishing platform with social media integration.
A recently introduced feature, Social Pro, shows how many of your recipients are on Facebook, Twitter and other networks, and lets you segment your campaigns based on this data. You can also create QR codes for specific campaigns and share links to your newsletters across social media platforms.
Mail Chimp offers a free plan with 2,000 recipients and as many as 12,000 emails per month. Paid plans range from $10 to $240 per month based on the size of your recipient list and volume. You may also opt for the high-volume category to send to anywhere from 50,000 to 3.1 million subscribers, ranging from $380 to $12,000 monthly. For more details, visit http://mailchimp.com.
If you’re a corporate event planner in charge of several high-attendance events each year, Cvent will likely be near the top of your list. Tools include budget management for separate events, online surveys and an RFP function that lets you solicit bids from a network of event venues and other service providers.
Integration with a variety of platforms is also available, such as SalesForce.com (customer relationship management) and travel planners (Concur, Passkey and GetThere). Pricing is not disclosed on Cvent’s website, so for more information, call 866-318-4358.
With 700,000 customers worldwide, iContact seems capable of living up to its slogan of “email marketing for everyone.”
Those customers were likely attracted by iContact’s 30-day free trial and its specific palette of services designed to create an email, send it out and track the results.
Integration with Facebook and Twitter is provided, and you can manage campaigns via iPod, iPhone and Android devices. Pricing is based on the size of your subscriber database, and ranges from $10 (500 recipients) to $699 per month (50,000).
Vertical Response is unique among the vendors reviewed here in that it is the only one offering the ability to send direct mail postcards in addition to online surveys and email communications.
You can upload a customer list with both email and snail mail addresses and send a campaign in either print or electronic format.
Like the other services, Vertical Response lets you create custom fields to divide your list based on desired characteristics, plus you can track results via a Google gadget and schedule campaigns with the built-in calendar.
The postcard service boasts no minimum quantities and includes printing and mailing. Unlimited emailing is $8.50 per month, while 1,000 survey responses starts at $11.48 per month. Pay-as-you-go pricing is also available. Postcards are as low as 75 cents each.
*Disclosure: Constant Contact is a business partner of Anymeeting